Basilica of Sant’Abbondio is a significant example of Lombard Romanesque architecture and a masterpiece of the Comacine masters.
The Basilica of Sant’Abbondio was built by the third bishop of Como, Sant’Amanzio (420-448), naming it to the holy apostles Peter and Paul. It served as the seat of the bishop’s cathedral until 1013, when the bishop Alberico moved it inside the walls. The building was then entrusted to the Benedictine monks. They rebuilt the church in Romanesque style. Then they built the second bell tower, before the consecration by Pope Urban II.
At its side stands a monastery built in the Middle Ages. Today, after being restored, it houses the Faculty of Law of the University of Insubria. The old perimeter is marked on the current floor by bands of black marble. It is dedicated to the patron saint of the city, fourth bishop of Como. The basilica, over the years, was subject to considerable restoration work that brought to light a series of frescoes from the mid-fourteenth century. The relics of the patron saint are kept under the high altar.
The facade is severe, punctuated by pilasters that rest on four columns, which belonged to the two-story quadriporticus added between the 12th and 14th centuries and subsequently eliminated. Two bell towers are inserted on the sides of the church thus framing the central apse. They are characterized by two single-lancet windows, adorned with reliefs of floral, zoomorphic and geometric motifs and a three-light window. On the north side of the basilica is the Abbey Cloister.
The basilica has fourteen very slender columns. To develop the sense of height and verticality also contribute two remarkable twin bell towers placed in the apse area. The interior has a very simple plan, divided into five naves by granite columns and a multitude of columns. They are composed of stone ashlars and surmounted by a remarkable variety of capitals. The main of the five aisles, covered by a flat ceiling. It is supported by tall columns of ashlars with rounded cubic capitals and ends with a vast choir, whose vaulted ceiling is frescoed with a starry sky.
The central corridor houses the tombs with the tombstones of the Comense Bishops after the sixteenth century, among which we mention that of Cardinal Durini, the last Commendatory of the Abbey. In the apse area the Gothic pictorial decoration reaches its maximum expression in the grandiose cycle of frescoes with the Stories of Christ. The Stories take place in twenty squares of the high wall through six orders and punctuated by ornamental bands with figures of saints, prophets, biblical characters, Bishops of Como, imaginative allegorical images, grotesque animals.
The wall frescoes are made between the 13th and 15th centuries. The highest ones are Romanesque, with a band of palmettes in frieze to the ceiling and with fake rings around the windows. The fake dials above the arches are instead Gothic fourteenth century. The two important paintings in the counter-façade on the sides of the entrance are a Sant’Abbondio that resurrects the son of Regolo, from the seventeenth century, attributed to Giovan Battista Recchi and an Assumption attributed to G. Battista Crespi known as Il Cerano.